Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: Smallville #17

For some reason, Smallville tends to be the last review that gets posted the week it comes out. It never is intentional. It by no means is a commentary on the book which I have loved. I felt compelled to change that ...

Smallville Season Eleven #17 came out this last week and was simply spectacular. I have said it over and over. I didn't expect to like this series as much as I have. But it has been fantastic since its inception. And this arc in particular is rising above, showcasing not only the great Lois/Clark relationship but also giving us a marvelous interpretation of Wonder Woman. With all the angst about the current Superman/Diana romance and the lack of Lois in the main DCU, this book brings something of a classic feel.

Seriously, I haven't enjoyed a Wonder Woman like this in a long time. (I like the Azzarello Wonder Woman but in my mind regard it as an ongoing Elseworlds book.)

Add to that the remarkable art Jorge Jimenez is doing here and you have a winning combination. He really draws a beautiful and strong Diana and the action scenes she is in are beautiful. I limit myself to 8 or 9 scans an issue and it was extremely difficult to limit it to that with so much great art. Even if you don't like the Smallville universe, pick the book up just for the art alone.

And, as usual, Cat Staggs gives us a great dynamic cover with Diana wielding chains as weapons.

Last issue ended with a faceoff between legendary harpies against Diana, Lois, Superman, and then eventually Steve Trevor and the DEO. While I haven't pieced together what Felix Faust wants, what Mr. Bones is hiding, or why Trevor doesn't seem to remember Diana, that first issue was slick.

We also learned that Lois dated Steve Trevor at some point. Just prior to this panel, Trevor wonders how Lois ended up with someone like Clark.

I love her response, classic Lois from Smallville. "Remember this glare .. bask in it!" This is a great Lois book.

Neither seems to be able to figure out why magic cultists attacked Bones though.

One of the things I also have loved about this arc is the back story of Diana on Paradise Island.

At some point, Trevor (her secret boy) was taken off the island. And now Hippolyta has disappeared. Diana decides she is going to leave the island to search for both. Artemis, always the pebble in Diana's shoe, attempts to stop her. With Hippolyta gone, Diana is next in line to be queen. Of course Artemis tries to stop her through violence ... and fails.

What I love here is how Diana doesn't even want to crown. She wants to put the matter of her leaving to a vote! And she abhors affairs of state! I have to say, that seems like a Diana thing to say. She seems more apt to believe in a democracy than a monarchy. It is small touches like this that work character-wise.

As for art, when she discusses democracy, she is almost hidden by bright light. Nice. And when she is preparing to battle Artemis, she is cloaked in shadow. Also nice. Shows both sides of Diana - ambassador and warrior.

While Lois tries to figure out the DEO angle of the attack, Clark finds Diana.

Diana is a vigilante, doling out justice on her time. But when she isn't out on patrol she is here, working at the Marston Home for Wayward Girls. She is protective of women who cannot defend themselves. Yeah ... that sounds like Diana too!

The two end up switching to their fighting clothes when Tess tracks down just where the Harpies went.

In an undiscovered Freemason temple, the two find an empty stone coffin and pictograms telling the Amazon's history. Some dark magic happened in this place. But to Diana, it means her mother, long missing, is still alive.

The Freemason angle is pretty dead in the water for me so hopefully we won't go there too much.

But I will admit, I am completely confused by the Faust story right now. That could be a good thing. I don't need to be told everything up front and I like trying to put together the clues of a story. But right now ... lost.

Lois' investigation leads her to an old WWII anti-occult unit called Shadowpact. And in that group - Mr. Bones (with skin), Felix Faust (who hasn't aged), and even John Zatara!

Okay, so Bones and Faust have some history. And Bones (who has been shown to be wearing false skin and more classically skeletal) and Faust appear pretty vital and amplified for guys kicking it in WWII. And, whatever they were doing was shady enough to make Zatara walk away. So a nice big piece of the puzzle is discovered.

It felt sort of Hellboy-ish ... in a good way. And I love the group was called Shadowpact!

But just as I think I might understand things better, Miller makes them muddier. Still in a good way.

Faust arrives and Bones office and lays things on the line. Faust has to 'complete something started' by the Shadowpact and to do that he needs Diana ... alive. And if Bones won't help, Faust will eliminate him.

So was the attack on Bones a way to lure out Diana? Was it a grudge against Bones (they hardly seem like old chums)?

Lois and Clark are really only involved because Senator (Ma) Kent was attacked with Bones. Could it just be luck that our protagonists are here?

Diana saw Trevor back at the cathedral and so shows up unannounced at his apartment, of course just as he is stepping out of the shower.

I love how Diana remarks on how much the naked Steve has grown, only to realize the double entendre she just stated. Even the drop of sweat on her forehead adds a bit of anime-humor to the scene.

But when she calls him her secret boy, the memories start to come back.

More interesting, in Trevor's apartment is a picture with him and Hippolyta ... looking rather like Mother and Son. Did Hippolyta leave to raise Trevor??

Remember, Faust wants Diana captured and wants Bones to do it for him. So the DEO arrives at Trevor's place with troops and even a tank. (A tank rolling down the streets of Alexandria Virginia??).

And this is where I am going to fail you as a reviewer. Because what follows is 8 pages of just drool-inducing beautiful Diana ferocity, swinging chains, turning over tanks, playing bullets and bracelets, and just being amazing. And yet, I couldn't share all of it with you! I will just ask you to buy it yourselves because Jorge Jimenez just brings it in that scene.

I include these panels because I again love what Diana says. She won't allow any harm to come to Trevor, even if she is upset at him. Being angry doesn't mean she doesn't care.

But look at that panel, Diana standing defiant, arms out, pledging to defend him. Again, it just feels like a Wonder Woman I want to read.

Superman arrives and the fight ends.

Bones promises to take Diana to her mother if she lets herself be brought in. And, given that is her goal, Diana agrees. Superman isn't too happy but feels handcuffed himself.

And so we see Diana taken away. And we get a cut to Faust performing some ritual, bonding his blood to Diana's, while Hippolyta remains incased in some magical cabinet.

Nice cliffhanger. My guess is that Faust made some deal with a demon, time is running out meaning his 'youthfulness' will soon slip away, and he needs to offer the demon something tastier to take.

But how great is it to see Hippolyta back in the Wonder Woman costume. It has to mean that Diana will put it on at the ends of this arc.

So we are staring to see more and more of the pieces of the Faust plot but I don't know if I could put the puzzle together quite yet. But as usual, Miller does a great job moving the plot along while adding all the small flourishes that makes this book work. Whether it is Easter Eggs like Shadowpact or Artemis, or the wonderful quiet character scenes like the Lois/Trevor and Diana/Trevor one, this book has it all - action, humor, character growth.

Add to that the incredibly slick art of Jorge Jimenez and this is a winning book. If you love sequential art with flair, I suggest you buy this book.

Overall grade: A

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